Senate appropriators on Monday unveiled plans for about $24 billion in extra military spending this fiscal year above the president’s budget request, the latest blow for progressive lawmakers who hoped to significantly curb defense spending.
The move amounts to a 5 percent increase in defense spending for fiscal 2022 over last year, and brings the appropriations bill in line with planned spending outlined in the House and Senate drafts of the annual defense authorization bill.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense panel, said in a statement the proposed funding bill “strengthens our military and ensures the brave men and women that protect this country have the resources they need to keep Americans safe.”
Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he hopes to pass the measure and the 11 other federal agency budget bills by Dec. 3, when the current budget extension is scheduled to expire.
The spending bill includes money for a 2.7 percent pay raise for all service members starting in January, $2.5 billion in investments in the Pacific region to counter Chinese military moves, and $4.3 billion for readiness and operational shortfalls across the services.
For the first time in more than a decade, the bill does not contain any funding for overseas contingency operations, with the end of the U.S. military deployment in Afghanistan earlier this summer.
About $3.3 billion requested by the White House to support Afghan security forces were reassigned to other priorities. They included $1.6 billion for facilities sustainment and modernization, $1.3 billion for better infrastructure to develop next-generation weapons, and almost $1.5 billion to upgrade and replace National Guard equipment.
In response to the budget bills’ unveiling, Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., blasted the proposals and said Democratic leaders need instead “a top-line agreement that does not shortchange our nation’s defense.”
However, the panel’s proposed spending total falls in line with plans already supported by Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee and in the House, where last month a coalition of conservatives and moderate Republicans overrode plans for less defense spending as part of the annual defense authorization bill.
White House officials have argued that after years of significant plus-ups to the defense budget under President Donald Trump, the extra military money is not needed. But they have also focused more on ensuring that other nondefense agencies see their own funding boosts in the budget plan.
Leahy said the other budget bills amount to a 13 percent increase in nondefense spending next year, a point Republican critics also attacked.
Lawmakers are now left with about seven weeks to navigate the budget bills through the Senate, then through conference committee work to establish a compromise between the two legislative chambers.
House appropriators backed Biden’s lower military spending plan in their budget bills earlier this year, but that move came several months before the defense authorization bill vote last month to go with the higher figures.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.